Pitfall Traps

If you've already done the activity on insect mouth types, then you probably have a pretty good idea of the diversity of insects that are crawling around out there.  I bet you don't realize how easy it is to catch some of them, though!  It is important to be able to look at live insects closely in order to learn more about them and that is just what this activity will allow you to do!

What You Will Learn

When you are through with this activity, you will have learned a new method for trapping insects and will have a better idea of some of the many types of insects that crawl around in your own backyard!

What You need

  • Pitfall suppliesBait (fruit, bread, meat, etc.)
  • Plastic or styrofoam containers (cups or bowls)
  • Boards
  • Small rocks
  • Magnifying lens (optional)

What To Do

  1. First, be sure to gather together all your materials.
  2. Next, punch a few small holes in the bottoms of your containers so that water can drain.
  3. Go outside and pick a place where you think your trap will not be disturbed by other people.   Dig a small hole in the soil and set your container into it with the top of the cup even with the soil surface.
  4. Next, it is your job to think about what kinds of insects might be in your backyard and what they might eat.  Set up several containers in the soil and place a small amount of the bait you think your insects will like into each trap.  Don't mix them up, though!   Just put one kind of bait into each container.
  5. To keep extra stuff from falling into your traps, like leaves and sticks, place several small rocks around your container and balance your board on top of the rocks.  In this way, the insects can easily crawl through the open space, but other stuff can't fall in!
  6. Now, unfortunately, you're going to have to wait for a while.  You can keep checking your traps, but be sure to empty them out by tomorrow at the latest . . . you want to try to look at as many insects as possible while they are still alive!

Going Further

Now that you have captured some insects (See how easy that was!), try to determine if there was a certain type of bait that attracted more insects than others.  Use a magnifying lens if you have one and try to identify what each insect is.  If you are really good, maybe you can even determine their mouth type, too!  Good luck!